Today, the Wild brass sit down with Jason Zucker to discuss his season, and their expectations for him going forward. Here's how that conversation went, I think.
Jason, why don't you have a seat. Can I get you something to drink? Power bar? Calcium supplement? Well let's get right to it then. I cannot begin to tell you how proud the Wild organization is of your performance this past season. We set some very specific and somewhat lofty goals for you coming into this season and you absolutely crushed our expectations. You should be very proud of what you have accomplished this year.
With 51 regular season games this season, 21 goals, 3 game winners, 1 PP, 1 SH, and 5 assists last season, you more than doubled you average games in a season. In your previous 3 season, 47 games played and you notched 12 points. Last season alone you grabbed 26 points. Your shooting percentage last season, 16.9%, was best on the squad. Unfortunately, you suffered a pretty tough injury this season, breaking your clavicle forcing you to miss 27 games. Just for fun we've extrapolated your numbers from this season over 82 games. This gets you 41 points from 33 goals and 8 assists. That would have you tied with Zach Parise (although he played just 74 games this season) for goals on the team.
Even with your injury, the only players to finish above you in goal scoring were Nino Niederreiter and Parise, and you were tied with Thomas Vanek. That is quite impressive considering Parise played 74 games, and both Nino and Vanek played 80 while you saw just 51 games this season. Jason, this season was quite the roller-coaster for us. You were a bright shining beacon for much of it, and this has us quite excited to see where you take your next challenge.
Expectations for Next Year
We want to see you get better, obviously! You've already shown great strides, and you're just 23 so you still have time to hone your game even further! Your progress was probably the most noticeable last season. We certainly won't expect another giant leap forward this season (although we would love to see it), but all this praise does not get you off the hook to take a break this offseason. Like everyone else on this squad, we have to work harder to get to our ultimate goal, a Stanley Cup Championship for the State of Hockey.
1) Heal - You're no good to this team when you're on the shelf. Injuries can be fluky, and you can't really prevent those. So take some time to rest, make sure you get that broken thumb fixed up before you start working on your offseason regiment. You can't prevent all injuries, but we'll need you coming into next season in shape so you don't hurt yourself next season.
2) Continue getting better defensively - Going into last season, one of our major gripes about your game was your work on the defensive side of the puck. With your speed, there is no reason you can't be back-checking and picking off passes in the neutral zone. We saw improvement this season, now lets round it out and complete this part of your game to make you a complete player.
3) Learn from your experiences - You're still young, but you've seen a lot of action over the past couple seasons. Now a veteran of 2 post-seasons, you scored an OT game winner in your first rodeo, and scored 2 goals for us in your second trip through. We need you to become a force out there, during the regular season and during the post-season even more so. Know that you can perform, and don't let the pressure get to you. You have shown us this season that you are able to learn at a rapid pace, take that gift and use it to improve your game further. Nobody is expecting you to take this team on your back, just contribute the way we all know you can.